Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Exodus 29

Exodus 29: Consecration of the priests


This chapter outlines instructions that had to be followed in order to “consecrate” Aaron and his sons to be priests. The word “consecrate” simply means to dedicate for a particular purpose; they were not allowed to serve the LORD as priests until these steps were taken, to dedicate them for the purpose of serving Him.

First, they were to make some bread, out of fine flour (with no yeast), some cakes mixed with oil, and some wafers spread with oil. They were to put these into a basket, and present them, along with a young bull and two rams, without defect. Aaron and his sons were then to wash, put on the garments described in Chapter 28, and be anointed with oil.

Once this was done, Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands on the bull’s head, and then slaughter it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (It says in verse 11 that they were to slaughter it “in the LORD’s presence”.) They were to take some of the bull’s blood and sprinkle it on the horns of the altar; the rest was to be poured out at the altar’s base. Then certain parts of the bull—the fat from the bull’s “inner parts”, the covering of the liver, and both of the kidneys, with the fat still on them (verse 13)—were to be burned on the altar. The rest of the bull was to be burned outside the camp. Verse 14 tells us that the bull was a “sin offering”.

They were then to sacrifice one of the young rams. Its blood was to be sprinkled on all sides of the altar, and it was then to be cut into pieces, washed, and burned on the altar. A different reason is given for this sacrifice:

It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire. (verse 18b)

Next, they were to take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons were to lay their hands on its head, slaughter it, and put some of the blood on their right earlobes, right thumbs, and right big toes. They were then to sprinkle more of its blood on all sides of the altar, then take some of the blood back off the altar, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his sons, and their clothes. This would consecrate the priests, and their clothes.

They were now to take certain parts of the ram—the fat, the tail, the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, both kidneys with the fat still on them, and the right thigh—along with some of the bread made without yeast, and Aaron was to wave them in front of the LORD as a “wave offering”. It was then to be burned on the altar as a burnt offering. The ram’s breast was then to be waved in front of the LORD as another wave offering, after which it would belong to Aaron and his sons, who were to eat it. Verses 27–28 go on to say that the thigh and breast of rams presented as fellowship offerings were always to belong to Aaron and his sons—i.e. the priests—as a lasting ordinance. Verse 33 tells us that this ram was sacrificed to make atonement for Aaron and his sons, for their ordination and consecration.

The priests were then to take the “ram of ordination”—the second ram—cook its meat in a holy place, and eat it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Noone else is allowed to eat this meat, and nor are the priests or anyone else allowed to eat any of the meat which is left over until the next day, because it is sacred.

The garments that were made for Aaron were to be passed on to his descendents, and every time a new son took over as High Priest, he was to be ordained in these clothes. When a new High Priest was ordained, he was to wear the clothes for seven days, while ministering before the LORD in the Holy Place.

The process for ordaining Aaron and his sons was to take seven days. (The word “ordain” simply means to appoint to a clerical post.) Each day, a bull was to be sacrificed as a sin offering, to make atonement for their sin. The altar was also to be purified, anointed, and consecrated. After the seven days, the alter would be “most holy”, and anything that touched it would become holy (verse 37).

God also gave instructions (verses 38–41) on offerings that were to be made every day. Every morning, the priests were to sacrifice a year-old lamb, along with two litres of fine flour mixed with a litre of oil from pressed olives, and a litre of wine as a “drink offering”. They were to offer the same thing again at twilight. These two sacrifices were to be permanent sacrifices, made every day:

For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. (verses 42–43)

Following all of these instructions would consecrate the Tent of Meeting, the altar, and Aaron and his sons.

Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God. (verse 45)


As it says in verse 14, the bull which was slaughtered was a “sin offering”. This is because Aaron and his sons, although they were the High Priest and the Priests, were sinful. This was the fundamental problem with the Old Testament sacrificial system, and why it could never have led to actual salvation: The people who were serving the LORD couldn’t take away the sins of the Israelites, because they had their own sin to deal with. Any time any of them approached the LORD, they had to offer a sacrifice, because of that sin. (I’m not a scholar, but I wouldn’t say that the sacrifice took care of the sins; it just served as a reminder. Only Jesus can take away sins.) Actually, “problem” isn’t the right word; God ordained this system, so it wasn’t flawed. It was never intended to take away sins. It was intended to remind the Israelites of their sin, and point ahead to Jesus’s sacrifice.

Although the sacrifices for sin make sense to me, the other offerings don’t make as much sense. Some of the offerings mentioned in this chapter are explicitly for sin, while others are simply described as “a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire” (verses 18, 25, and 41). I’m wondering if this has something to do with the Israelites “proving” their faith to Him? These sacrifices—which would not be cheap, for the Israelites—would show that they care more about following God than about their possessions?

Elsewhere, a type of sacrifice called a “fellowship offering” will also be mentioned. I don’t know if that’s another type of sacrifice, or just a special name for the sacrifices mentioned here, which are “a pleasing aroma to the LORD”.

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